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In Oregon, health officials have confirmed the state’s first case of bubonic plague since 2015. The person was likely infected by their symptomatic pet cat, according to Deschutes County officials. The case was caught early and poses “little risk to the community,” officials said. No additional cases have been reported.

To prevent the spread of this deadly disease, it is essential to understand what causes it and how it spreads. Plague is caused by a bacteria found in small mammals and their fleas, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Bubonic plague is the most common form of the disease and can be spread through the bite of an infected flea or contact with an infected animal. In Central Oregon, squirrels and chipmunks most often carry the disease, but health officials warn that mice and other rodents can also carry it.

Symptoms of bubonic plague typically appear two to eight days after a person is exposed to an infected animal or flea. They include fever, headache, chills, weakness and one or more swollen, painful lymph nodes called buboes. It’s important to note that bubonic plague can develop into septicemic plague, a bloodstream infection, or pneumonic plague, a lung infection if left untreated early. Both forms are more severe and difficult to treat than bubonic plague.

To prevent the spread of this deadly disease, people should avoid contact with rodents altogether, including those that are sick or dead. Keeping pets on leashes while outdoors is recommended as well as using flea control products to reduce the possibility that they get fleas from these animals. Pet cats are particularly susceptible to this illness; therefore they should be discouraged from hunting rodents if possible.

Plague was first introduced to North America by rat-infested steamships that sailed from Asia in 1900 according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most cases are reported in parts of New Mexico

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